Academy of Management Journal 2011, Vol. 54, No. 2, 312–334.
DAILY CUSTOMER MISTREATMENT AND EMPLOYEE SABOTAGE AGAINST CUSTOMERS: EXAMINING EMOTION AND RESOURCE PERSPECTIVES MO WANG HUI LIAO YUJIE ZHAN University of Maryland JUNQI SHI Peking University Taking emotion and resource perspectives, we examined the daily relationship between customers’ mistreatment of employees and employee sabotage of customers, as well as employees’ individual- and unit-level emotion-based and resource-based moderators for this relationship. Multilevel analyses of daily survey data from 131 call center employees showed that daily customer mistreatment significantly predicted customer-directed sabotage. In addition, supporting the emotion perspective, employees’ negative affectivity exacerbated the effect of customer mistreatment on customerdirected sabotage, whereas employees’ self-efficacy for emotional regulation weakened such effect. Further, supporting the resource perspective, job tenure and service rule commitment both weakened the effect of customer mistreatment.
Customer mistreatment of employees, or lowquality interpersonal treatment employees receive from their customers (Bies, 2001), is a growing problem for service organizations (Caruana, Ramaseshan, & Ewing, 2001; Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004; Harris & Reynolds, 2003). For example, Grandey et al. (2004) reported that call center employees experience customer mistreatment an average of ten times a day. Examples of customer mistreatment include treating the employee in disrespectful, demeaning, unreasonable, or aggressive ways (e.g., Dormann & Zapf, 2004; Grandey et al., 2004; Skarlicki, Van Jaarsveld, & Walker, 2008). Studies have generally found a positive relationship between such mistreatment of employees by customers and employee emotional exhaustion, demonstrating the detrimental effect of customer mistreatment (e.g., Dormann & Zapf, 2004; Grandey et al., 2004; Grandey, Kern, & Frone, 2007). However, to our knowledge, only one study (Skarlicki et al., 2008) has answered Pearson and
We would like to acknowledge Songqi Liu and Le Zhou for their help with data cleaning and coding. We are also grateful to Peter Bamberger and three anonymous reviewers for helpful and patient comments on drafts. This research was supported in part by a Key Project in the Chinese National Science & Technology Pillar Program (No. 2009BAI77B04). Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Mo Wang or Junqi Shi. 312
Porath’s (2004) call for more research on how mistreatment by customers may lead to negative employee behaviors directed toward them—such as employee sabotage of customers—a counterproductive work behavior whereby an employee intentionally harms the legitimate interests of a customer. We contend that this lack of research is an oversight, since customers are essential for most organizations (Ryan & Ployhart, 2003), and research has shown that frontline employees’ behaviors directly affect customer satisfaction and loyalty (Liao & Chuang, 2004, 2007; Schneider, Ehrhart, Mayer, Saltz, & Niles-Jolly, 2005), which in turn affect organizations’ revenue growth, profitability, and shareholder value (Anderson & Fornell, 2000; Anderson & Mazvancheryl, 2004; Reichheld & Sasser, 1990). Employee sabotage of customers, in particular, is a severe violation of the “service rule” or “script of required behaviors” mandating that customers receive professional, friendly, and patient treatment (e.g., Skarlicki et al., 2008; Solomon, Surprenant, Czepiel, & Gutman, 1985). Such sabotage has been argued and shown to be harmful to customer relationships (e.g., Bitner, Booms, & Tetrault, 1990; Pearson & Porath, 2004). Therefore, it is important to understand when mistreatment by customers triggers employee sabotage directed against them. Research in this regard may guide organizations’ and managers’ interventions aimed at reducing the likelihood of employee negative behaviors toward...
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